Lost City found in...Kansas?

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Archaeologists explore a rural field in Kansas, and a lost city emerges

Must Reads: Archaeologists explore a rural field in Kansas, and a lost city emerges



Of all the places to discover a lost city, this pleasing little community seems an unlikely candidate.

There are no vine-covered temples or impenetrable jungles here — just an old-fashioned downtown, a drug store that serves up root beer floats and rambling houses along shady brick lanes.

Yet there’s always been something — something just below the surface.

Locals have long scoured fields and river banks for arrowheads and bits of pottery, amassing huge collections. Then there were those murky tales of a sprawling city on the Great Plains and a chief who drank from a goblet of gold.

A few years ago, Donald Blakeslee, an anthropologist and archaeology professor at Wichita State University, began piecing things together. And what he’s found has spurred a rethinking of traditional views on the early settlement of the Midwest, while potentially filling a major gap in American history.

Using freshly translated documents written by the Spanish conquistadors more than 400 years ago and an array of high-tech equipment, Blakeslee located what he believes to be the lost city of Etzanoa, home to perhaps 20,000 people between 1450 and 1700.


They lived in thatched, beehive-shaped houses that ran for at least five miles along the bluffs and banks of the Walnut and Arkansas rivers. Blakeslee says the site is the second-largest ancient settlement in the country after Cahokia in Illinois.

On a recent morning, Blakeslee supervised a group of Wichita State students excavating a series of rectangular pits in a local field.

Jeremiah Perkins, 21, brushed dirt from a half-buried black pot.

Others sifted soil over screened boxes, revealing arrowheads, pottery and stone scrapers used to thin buffalo hides.

Blakeslee, 75, became intrigued by Etzanoa after scholars at UC Berkeley retranslated in 2013 the often muddled Spanish accounts of their forays into what is now Kansas. The new versions were more cogent, precise and vivid.

“I thought, ‘Wow, their eyewitness descriptions are so clear it’s like you were there.’ I wanted to see if the archaeology fit their descriptions,” he said. “Every single detail matched this place.”

Conquistadors are often associated with Mexico, but a thirst for gold drove them into the Midwest as well.

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado came to central Kansas in 1541 chasing stories of a fabulously wealthy nobleman who napped beneath trees festooned with tinkling gold bells. He found no gold, but he did find Native Americans in a collection of settlements he dubbed Quivira.

In 1601, Juan de Oñate led about 70 conquistadors from the Spanish colony of New Mexico into south-central Kansas in search of Quivira in the hopes of finding gold, winning converts for the Catholic Church and extracting tribute for the crown.

According to Spanish records, they ran into a tribe called the Escanxaques, who told of a large city nearby where a Spaniard was allegedly imprisoned. The locals called it Etzanoa.

As the Spaniards drew near, they spied numerous grass houses along the bluffs. A delegation of Etzanoans bearing round corn cakes met them on the river bank. They were described as a sturdy people with gentle dispositions and stripes tattooed from their eyes to their ears. It was a friendly encounter until the conquistadors decided to take hostages. That prompted the entire city to flee.

Oñate’s men wandered the empty settlement for two or three days, counting 2,000 houses that held eight to 10 people each. Gardens of pumpkins, corn and sunflowers lay between the homes.

The Spaniards could see more houses in the distance, but they feared an Etzanoan attack and turned back.

That’s when they were ambushed by 1,500 Escanxaques. The conquistadors battled them with guns and cannons before finally withdrawing back to New Mexico, never to return.

Full story at site
 
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Fascinating.
...scholars at UC Berkeley retranslated in 2013 the often muddled Spanish accounts of their forays into what is now Kansas. The new versions were more cogent, precise and vivid.
I wonder if retranslations are being done for other Conquistador accounts. They were all over the New World. It might shed more light on what happened with the Aztecs and Incas. It's too bad that they were driven by relentless greed. It seems like the Conquistador path always left a trail of blood and tears.
 
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A great find. I hope they weren’t decimated by disease. Maybe through excavation we will learn what happened to the people.
 

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My personal belief is that they should stop what they're doing and let the dead rest. I know they're excavating a site, but it was the home to those people. I don't know anyone who wouldn't want to rest at their home.
 

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My personal belief is that they should stop what they're doing and let the dead rest. I know they're excavating a site, but it was the home to those people. I don't know anyone who wouldn't want to rest at their home.
I don’t believe they are excavating graves. It is just uncovering an old village. I see no harm in looking into what is essentially a time capsule. We can possibly uncover the mystery behind what happened to these people.
 
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Jennifer

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If there are no graves, then I guess it's ok. But when they are grave robbing, that's what makes my blood boil. Howard Carter for example was nothing but a grave robber. Did he ever stop to think that there might be a REASON that the tomb was sealed? I want to take a shovel to his grave to dig his worthless ass up, and I'm going to call it archaeology. Both to make a point, and as a desecration of a worthless creature.

There's a hell of a difference between archaeology and grave robbing. Carter was a grave robber.
 
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i often wonder what amazing things we would have found had the Spanish not been the people that went first to the Americas. They destroyed EVERYTHING, killed most of the people either with the diseases that they carried or by sword and gun. They burned all the books(codexes) that they found and wiped out a civilization that in many ways was superior to the European level in some of the Sciences and mathematics. What we get from their history is mostly from reports of people that were only interested in what they could steal, rape, conquer and enslave. What if instead they had first tried to see what they might have learned?

While in most of Europe they were still just coming out of the idea that the world was flat and the center of the universe. Meanwhile, the American natives had an amazing and not even yet understood grasp of the place or the planets and stars. Some of their observations could only have been made with some sort of optical enhancement. How did they know about the wobble of the Earth,s axis that causes the precession of the seasons as they relate to which constellations are in the sky? This is a 25,772-year cycle!!

Had the Europeans "discovered" the Americas a few centuries sooner of a century or so later they might have not had nearly as much success as they did conquering the natives. Especially in North America, there had been a period of drought that had caused a collapse of a much more cohesive and powerful civilization than was there when they showed up. The Mississippian civilization was big and they built huge eath work mounds and cities. Had that still been intact instead of having to deal with scattered smaller tribes that were fighting each other the Europeans would have found an organized nation similar in some ways to the central and south American civilizations?
 

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i often wonder what amazing things we would have found had the Spanish not been the people that went first to the Americas. They destroyed EVERYTHING, killed most of the people either with the diseases that they carried or by sword and gun. They burned all the books(codexes) that they found and wiped out a civilization that in many ways was superior to the European level in some of the Sciences and mathematics. What we get from their history is mostly from reports of people that were only interested in what they could steal, rape, conquer and enslave. What if instead they had first tried to see what they might have learned?

While in most of Europe they were still just coming out of the idea that the world was flat and the center of the universe. Meanwhile, the American natives had an amazing and not even yet understood grasp of the place or the planets and stars. Some of their observations could only have been made with some sort of optical enhancement. How did they know about the wobble of the Earth,s axis that causes the precession of the seasons as they relate to which constellations are in the sky? This is a 25,772-year cycle!!

Had the Europeans "discovered" the Americas a few centuries sooner of a century or so later they might have not had nearly as much success as they did conquering the natives. Especially in North America, there had been a period of drought that had caused a collapse of a much more cohesive and powerful civilization than was there when they showed up. The Mississippian civilization was big and they built huge eath work mounds and cities. Had that still been intact instead of having to deal with scattered smaller tribes that were fighting each other the Europeans would have found an organized nation similar in some ways to the central and south American civilizations?
Indeed we might have gotten more answers to the mysteries. Not to mention all the lives that would have been saved.
 
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TexDanm

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I'm afraid that the deaths were inevitable and the majority came from the diseases. The problem after that was that the "Priests" that were with them looked at the codices as most likely demonic and so burned them ALL. In part, the Spanish, especially the priests were appalled by the MASSIVE number of human sacrifices that the people that survived the first contact with the Spaniards were offering in an attempt to appease the gods. They probably saw the diseases and the uncalled for violence of the Spaniards as an indication that their gods were NOT happy with them. Little did they know...So much was lost...

There is another thing that is not generally talked about that probably set the Spanish off. The Aztecs were cannibals. The only debate in the matter is whether they did it strictly as a ritual or was human flesh a significant part of their diet. The Aztecs only had two domestic meat animals, turkeys, and dogs. There was a problem in that the numbers of people needed to build their massive cities wouldn't have been able to feed those people by hunting and gathering and a few turkeys and dogs. Without refrigeration or even the wheel, they couldn't bring in-game from very far away.

Like in the Jewish faith, they offered the blood of their sacrifices to their gods and that made the meat acceptable.

In general things like this are not brought to the forefront of history. Cannibalism is evidenced in the past of people on every continent. Since nobody wants to hear that THEIR ancestors might have practiced this it is just not studied or revealed when there are findings indicative of human bones being flensed or stripped of meat for eating.
 
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Lynne

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I'm afraid that the deaths were inevitable and the majority came from the diseases. The problem after that was that the "Priests" that were with them looked at the codices as most likely demonic and so burned them ALL. In part, the Spanish, especially the priests were appalled by the MASSIVE number of human sacrifices that the people that survived the first contact with the Spaniards were offering in an attempt to appease the gods. They probably saw the diseases and the uncalled for violence of the Spaniards as an indication that their gods were NOT happy with them. Little did they know...So much was lost...
It is sickening. You make good points.